Caution urged on new pool joy

THE site of the proposed new swimming pool for Garstang, between the leisure centre and Windsor Road
THE site of the proposed new swimming pool for Garstang, between the leisure centre and Windsor Road

PLANS for a new swimming pool in Garstang have been welcomed by borough leaders and the town’s swimming club, with Wyre Council announcing another public consultation.

The council’s Conservative-run administration says it wants to invest £2.3 million at Garstang Leisure Centre, including the building of the new pool on Windsor Road in front of the sports hall.

Details of the proposal were warmly welcomed at a meeting of Wyre Council’s cabinet, which also heard about the promise of consultation with the Garstang community for the scheme.

The plans form part of a wider £7million package, affecting Poulton and Thornton Leisure Centres, which like Garstang are run for the council by Fylde Coast YMCA.

Cabinet member for leisure Coun Lynne Bowen said business plans would now be drawn up with YMCA. She also promised public consultation “soon.”

She added: “I’m delighted that cabinet has supported the proposals and am looking forward to moving forward with a project that is set to bring great benefits to the residents of Wyre.

“The next steps are to conduct further work around the business plans and with YMCA who manage the leisure centres on our behalf, and to start preparing detailed designs.

“And there will soon be a public consultation to give residents the chance to express their views on the proposals.”

Gym-users in Garstang launched a “Save our Sports Centre” campaign late last year over fears the centre, could be earmarked for closure after the council announced a review into its leisure facilities.

But council leader Coun Peter Gibson said there had been ‘no pre-conceived ideas’ and was at pains to stress the council had an ‘open mind’ on the future of the borough’s leisure provision.

In its final assessment consultants Max Associates, who undertook the review of leisure services said there was a ‘clear local desire for Garstang Leisure Centre to be retained and facilities improved’ and a number of individual letters highlighted the strength of feeling and support for the facility.

The report went on to conclude that leisure provision could not be sufficiently developed at Garstang Community Academy to ‘justify closure and disposal of Garstang Leisure Centre,’ due to continued demand for club use in the evenings at the school and the needs of school during the day.

Speaking at the meeting Coun Gibson said: “The plan is for clear investment to improve our leisure facilities and to improve the deal for our council tax payers.”

But the welcome for the pool is mixed with a dose of caution given the many imponderables and unknowns about the idea.

Two years ago Wyre leisure boss Lynn Bowen, in a downbeat statement on the state and useage of Garstang Leisure Centre said: “We are not saying we are going to close it now.”

The comments shocked the Garstang community and prompted considerable reaction from sports enthusiasts.

As the Courier reported last week the tone has now turned one of cautious optimism, with more details of the plans being made public, along with the promise of consultation.

Plans seen by the Courier show a two storey building containing a four lane pool built on the grassed area in front of the sports hall, fronting Windsor Road, opposite the library.

Wyre’s leaders are bouyant over the ideas, but the questions remain, particularly over available funding at a time of tough times in local government spending.

The biggest question concerns the sum Lancashire County Council will contribute to the project from the possible sale of its public pool at Oak Road.

Although it is still early days, Wyre and the county have not yet formalised any details of a cash gift to Wyre from the sale of the current pool.

Council official Mike Ryan told last week’s cabinet meeting the county had shown some willingness towards contributing to the cost, and had made a ‘verbal offer,’ but added the councils were still in negotiations.

Mr Ryan said: “At the minute we can’t agree on the basis of that contribution.

“An informal offer has been made but we would like to work for a further offer that better reflects the usage of the current facility.”

Mr Ryan’s comments came after Coun Brooks quizzed Coun Bowen on the issue.

Coun Brooks said the future of the Oak Road site and what LCC are going to do with it was absolutely crucial.”

“Unless the county council subscribe to this scheme it won’t happen because I can’t imagine us being able to build this out of our own funds.

“Have you got a Plan B if Lancashire County Council don’t play ball?”

Coun Bowen said this week: “if an agreement can’t be reached, the existing leisure centre will still receive significant investment for improvements.”

Consultants Max Associates, who undertook the review of leisure services, will be engaged to assist the council in taking the scheme forward.

Their services will cost the council £45,000.

Garstang businessman Mike Ward, who is hoping to open a swimming pool at Acresfield, Cabus in early 2014, 
said: “We contacted the consultants to inform them about the facility and said that they should take account of our development as it would have a potential bearing on the future of leisure facilities in the area.

“Sadly, for whatever reason they chose to disregard the information which we supplied to them.

“We want to provide a quality facility for the area.”

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